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William Bisson: Aortofemoral Bypass

The Challenge: Severe Pain Behind His Right Calf

William Bisson, 74, has moved around quite a bit throughout his lifetime.

A native of Cleveland, he and his wife raised their two children outside Ocean City, Md. He now lives in Oil City, Pa., so that he can stay close to his family.

In February 2019, William suddenly had severe pain in his right leg.

Feeling like “a nail was being driven into the back of his right calf,” he knew he needed a doctor’s opinion. Thankfully, UPMC Northwest was only a short drive away.

The Short Path to the Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Northwest

William went to the ER at UPMC Northwest to find out the cause of his calf pain.

After an exam, ER doctors called UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute experts about William’s issue.

Through a secure teleconference system, doctors across UPMC can discuss cases and decide on proper treatments. This system gives patients the care of the doctor in the room and HVI experts throughout UPMC.

Doctors agreed the best course of action would be to send William to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh. Once William got there, he had a series of imaging and other tests to assess his suspected circulation problem.

Efthymios Avgerinos, MD, a surgeon with the UPMC Division of Vascular Surgery, looked at William’s test results. They showed a number of blockages in the blood vessels on both William’s right and left legs. He also had blocked vessels in his stomach and pelvis.

This was a result of a prior failed aortic procedure William had years ago while living in Maryland. The aortic stent doctors placed for an aneurysm clotted and blocked the blood flow to the legs.

William's diagnosis of aortoiliac occlusive disease put him at risk of losing his right leg. Dr. Avgerinos knew he had to operate.

While tests revealed most blockages were on William’s right side, there were also some in his left leg.

Dr. Avgerinos talked to William about two types of surgery that would take care of his blocked veins:

  • One option for repair would only treat the blockages on the right side. But William would most likely need surgery on his left side in a few years.
  • The other option would treat both the right and left side with one surgery.

William carefully thought about each option and, trusting his opinion, asked Dr. Avgerinos for his input.

“Dr. A told me — if he were in my shoes — he would choose to have both sides done at the same time. That way, I could avoid another surgery in a few years.”

The Solution: Aortic Stent and Bifemoral Bypass

William valued Dr. Avgerinos’ thinking and chose to have both sides repaired within the same surgery.

“Dr. A was upfront, no punches, and told me what to expect,” William says.

The surgery took 12 hours and cleared the blocked blood vessels in both legs.

The Results: Getting Back to His Normal Routine

These days, William is slowly getting back to his daily routine, now without the leg pain. While he still has some time until his restored blood flow boosts up his muscles, he's pleased with the results so far.

Post-op, William has been going to physical therapy near his home to help him get back to his normal routine.

Meanwhile, he's an avid sports lover. He enjoys watching baseball — including his nephew’s games — and going on weekly outings with his family.

William is thankful for the attentive care from the vascular team at UPMC Presbyterian.

“I felt like I was the only patient they were caring for,” says William.

For follow-up care, he sees Bryan Tillman, MD, vascular surgeon, and the team at UPMC Northwest.

William's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.

Read more vascular condition patient stories

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